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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Derrick

The SportAZ Newsletter, ed 1

Sport has the power to change the world

Here she is in all its glory, the first fortnightly newsletter. If you love what you read, click subscribe/follow and share with your network (please and thank you!)

In this edition we explore brands including the WNBA and Guinness and we celebrate Nelson Mandela’s iconic Laureus speech in light of the New Year. Let’s jump in. 

Brand Move

What it is

The 2019 rebrand of the WNBA.

With almost all the ingredients to succeed, the WNBA was still struggling to sell tickets and bring in loyal fans that engaged with the sport, its teams, and its players. 

Creative agency Sylvain was brought in to answer one question “how do you re-envision a women’s professional sports league to connect with fans and deliver long-term profitability?”

The result was a complete rebrand – the missing ingredient – that allows the WNBA to be completely separated from the men’s game. Sylvain gave WNBA a strategic brand positioning that set WNBA up as a ‘lifestyle brand’, one that invited fans to be involved in far more than the game – to enjoy the culture, community and experience beyond the court.

Of course a smashing new look-and-feel and iconic logo accompanied the positioning which rolled out across all touchpoints including epic new team merchandise. 

What we can learn from it

Doing the work and truly understanding your sport, your brand and your fans (both existing and potential) allows fans to connect authentically. Putting brand at the heart of your plan future-proofs and diversifies beyond the short-term focus of physical play.

Where the NBA has decades of equity and with it, fandom that continues through generations, the WNBA needed to find its own way that would create its own legacy. 

The results? 

  • Significant investment in new products, kits and team brandings 

  • 170% increase in viewership

  • 65% increase in social media engagement

  • 400% increase in app downloads 

  • 658% increase in All Star merch sales 

  • Player salaries doubled 

  • Record sponsorship sales 

There’s a way to go yet to close the gender / NBA gap but that comes with time, investment and loyal fans – ingredients that are only on the up.

Key takeout: Put brand at the heart to ensure long-term economical and fan growth

Partner Play

What it is

Guinness x Six Nations

Few would argue that Guinness is the drink of rugby. So, it made sense, if not slightly belated sense, that Guinness become the title sponsor of both the men’s and women’s Six Nations competition. The investment and with it, show of belief that women’s rugby is the future, has been welcomed by women’s sport leaders across the globe. 

What we can learn from it

A few years ago, women’s sport was thrown in as a ‘bonus’ to a men’s sponsorship contract. A way to seal the deal and tick off a sponsor’s D&I objectives. The men’s side would enjoy 90%+ of the sponsorship funds, the women’s side getting the dregs.

Next came a couple of years of ‘unbundling’. A term coined to explain the movement where sponsorship of the women’s game could – and should – be thought of as separate to the men’s. 

Now, we are starting to see the OG dual sponsorship packages come back, but with the women’s game seen as far more than a tickbox exercise. For sponsors to truly be the ‘drink of rugby’, you can no longer simply rely on a big men’s tournament. 

Women’s sport is investable, it’s purposeful and can meet a multitude of business goals when activated properly. For Guinness, here they are being the official drink of rugby. For others who may want to be seen as future-focussed, inclusive or who simply want loyal and spending customers, they may choose to forgo the men’s game altogether. 

Key takeout: Choose sponsorship based on your business objectives and your brand values. The rest will sort itself.

Power Source

What it is

Nelson Mandela’s speech from the inaugural Laureus Sport Awards. 

There are many iconic speeches in sport, a lot taking place in a changing room or on a film. All incredibly powerful, rousing, and memorable in their own way. 

But nothing sticks with you quite like Nelson Mandela’s speech as he opened the first ever Laureus Sport Awards and it simply wouldn’t be a New Year if we didn’t remind ourselves of his message. 

What we can learn from it

Sport is not just million-dollar paychecks and football. It’s not even just about professional play. 

Sport has the power to change the world. Through building communities, confidence; through celebrating and uniting differences and through providing health benefits that would revolutionise our health system. 

Whilst we have a way to go on complete equality, sport is our best chance in breaking down barriers, challenging norms and uniting the world. 

Still gives me goosebumps. 

Key takout: Sport has the power to change the world. 

There we go, the first SportAZ newsletter. I imagine it will evolve and be reshaped as I learn from you all but I hope you’ve found it interesting in some way! 

Sources: Youtube,, WNBA, SportsPro, Six Nations, BBC Sport

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